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Figures before a Locanda, with a View of the Piazza del Popolo, Rome©

Carel van Mander described Rome in 1604 as ‘the city where before all other places the painter’s journey is apt to lead him’. The many northern artists working in Rome tended to stick together, living in the area immediately inside the Porta del Popolo (no. 34). They formed a club, the Bentvueghels (birds of a flock), members of which were given nicknames: Karel du Jardin (nos 35, 36 and 37) was called ‘Goatee-beard’ and Cornelis van Poelenburgh (nos 28and 29) ‘Satyr’, perhaps because he painted satyrs or even resembled one.

These artists presented an ambivalent image of Rome. Some, like Claude (no. 30) and Jan Both (no. 31), were inspired by the glory of ancient Rome and the magnificence of its ruins; they idealised the surrounding landscape and their paintings glow with southern light. Others, like Lingelbach (no. 34) and Karel du Jardin (no. 35), seem to have been struck by the contrast between past glory and present squalor.

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